Review By George Chien ,Fanfare,November 2010
Our headnote reflects what you’ll see on the front of this release. The back shows the program order—the two works are reversed—and also bears a caveat: the dreaded four-letter word (abbreviation, actually) of musicology: “Attr.” “It is uncertain,” says the blurb, “whether the Missa solemnis in C was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or by his father, Leopold. Whatever the case, it was extremely popular during the 18th and 19th centuries.” Popular it may have been, but information about it is not easily found. It is listed under “Doubtful and spurious” in The Mozart Compendium, which also notes that its Benedictus is identical with a Salve Regina, K 92. Of the Salve Regina the Compendium simply says that it is
In a separate article Pajot cites speculation the Salve Regina might have been performed in Salzburg in 1768, but the Mozarts were in Vienna at the time, casting doubt on that hypothesis. He suggests that an unknown copyist may have extracted the Benedictus, the most attractive number in the Mass, as a commercial venture.
What of the Mass itself? Set in 16 separate numbers for four soloists, chorus, organ, and orchestra, it is typical of the prevailing style. It’s a thoroughly competent work and certainly would have been a noteworthy accomplishment for a 12-year-old. It’s understandable that 17th- and 18th-century audiences could have been attracted to it, despite the reservations of the connoisseurs.
Simon Mayr (1763–1845) was yet another once-forgotten composer who toiled in the shadow of the Viennese Classical immortals, whom he admired. Naxos has apparently taken an interest in his music, having previously issued a dramatic cantata, two oratorios, and a one-act opera, which nonetheless barely scratches the surface of an extensive body of work. Born in Bavaria, Mayr studied in Venice, settled in Bergamo, and subsequently became Italy’s most celebrated opera composer before Rossini’s emergence. He composed prolifically, writing mostly church music early and late in his career, but, in the middle, 68 operas that were mounted in Bergamo, Venice, Milan, and throughout Italy. According to Mayr’s biographer the Te Deum was composed for the 1805 coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as King of Italy, but that, too, is subject to debate. Other sources suggest that it may have been written